Creative Writing

This next story has an important twist – it was also a game. Specifically, games like this one are known as “text-based adventure games” (A.K.A. Interactive Fiction), which are similar to a style of “choose your own adventure” books. In books like that, the author would pose a question at the end of a chapter, and based on what direction the reader wanted to take the story, they would choose the appropriate page number to continue the story down their chosen branch. The principle behind a text-based adventure game is exactly the same, except that a computer can interpret a much wider range of choices and possibilities, adding much greater depth.

Perhaps the most famous text-based adventure game (that I know of) is one based on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Maybe I should really say infamous, because the game is best known for being incredibly difficult! It can still be found and played online here.

I used a purpose-built programming language to make my adventure game back in 2007 called AlanIF, which is still running strong. AlanIF is a freeware project that comes with its own Integrated Development Environment and an “action library” to get you started. If there’s any interest in this, I may post the source code at a later time.

The people who know me well will also know about my keen interest in Russian history and culture, which I often use as a source of inspiration for setting and atmosphere in my stories like this one. Reading it back to myself now, I could easily think of dozens of ways in which to improve this story (there are several typos, just for starters) – maybe I’ll give Interactive Fiction another go one day.

Here is the concept overview and a walkthrough of the game that shows you how the story unfolded:

An AlanIF Interactive Fiction Story, “Ost Front”

Characters:

You can examine pretty much anything in the game, including the characters. A lot can be found out about the character and their past by examining them and other specific items.

Russians:

Svetlana Yakushevich (you)

Nikolai Yakushevich

Roman Koltsov

Dmitriy Zaitsev

Germans:

Herman Waldschmidt

Locations:

Somewhere near Maloarkhangelsk, Russia.

Plot summary:

At some point during the Soviet-Axis conflict on the eastern front during the midst of WW2, this game unfolds the story of ‘Sveta’, a civilian girl caught up in the war with her father, Nikolai. The story begins with Sveta packing her belongings into a case, ready to evacuate her home in the face of the imminent German invasion, and board a train bound for the Ural Mountains to the east. She lives in an isolated cabin or lodge, as her father works at a nearby lumbermill in the surrounding woodland. As Sveta and Nikolai are hurredly packing, they are too late, and a German Panzer IV tank thunders past the lodge, encountering a Russian T34 heading in the opposite direction. The two armoured war-machines sight each other, and stop at either side of the clearing, their crews scrambling to bring their weapons to bare. Although the T34 is a superior tank, the crew members are inexperienced and in pure desperation they miss the Panzer. The stray shell hits the lodge instead, destroying it completely. As Sveta and her father are fleeing, the collapsing rubble traps Nikolai inside; Sveta makes it out, but she had to abandon all of her belongings. The Panzer tank returns fire, scoring a critical hit on the fuel lines of the T34, resulting in a massive explosion. One of the crew managed to escape, but is quickly cut down and killed by the machineguns of the Panzer. Triumphant, the Panzer tank continues to its destination, and Sveta manages to free herself from the debris.

Although not necessary to complete the game, the side quest is to rescue her father from the destroyed house. Sveta inspects the corpse of the russian tank crewmember who attempted to run from the burning wreckage, and takes the papers that he is carrying, he also has a Mosin Nagant – a russian bolt action rifle, but it has no ammunition. As she continues away from the house, she is able to obtain a bucket of water from a nearby outhouse, used to extinguish the still burning T34. It is revealed to her at this point that the hatch of the tank is openable, but currently stuck. She searches for a tool to help her open it, namely a crowbar. There is such a tool to be found at the garage. At the garage, there is also a truck which will not start. With the help of the crowbar, she is able to prise open the hatch of the tank. The rest of the crew members are is dead inside, but she able to find some ammunition for the rifle.

Returning to the outhouse, a few more objects are inspected in more detail, revealing that a bird has stolen a keyfob to use as part of its nest. By loading the rifle with ammunition, Sveta is able to shoot the nest out of the tree and take the key. It fits the ignition of the truck at the garage.

With the truck engine running, the wreckage of the house can be pulled away with a towing winch to free Nikolai.

However, wether you have rescued Nikolai or not, you can still complete the game once you have some ID papers (dropped by the wounded Russian), and a loaded rifle. Heading eastward along the path, Sveta is stopped by a lone German soldier who does not speak Russian, and Sveta does not speak German. In a tense moment of difficult communication whilst Sveta is held at gunpoint, she gives the German the papers of the dead crewman. The German is confused, since the papers clearly don’t identify a young girl. Sveta takes the opportunity to catch him off guard and shoots him with the rifle.

Demo:

    ***Ost Front***

    An ALAN 3 Interactive Fiction Game

    By Matt Pickering

(Type “help” if you have not played a text game before.)

Somewhere near Maloarkhangelsk, Russia, 1941. 14 year-old Svetlana Yakushevich and her father, Nikolai, are Russian civilians caught up in the Soviet-Axis conflict of WW2. They are preparing to evacuate their home in the face of an imminent German invasion force…

Bedroom

Your bedroom is a small room on the first floor of the lodge, many of your belongings are here, including your bed and cupboard. The window is frosted over. The door to the south leads out to the landing.

> search belongings

You find a creased and sunbleached photograph amongst your things, which you pick up.

> s

You exit your bedroom, the floorboards creaking as you go. A muffled voice calls from downstairs, “Sveta! Hurry!”.

Landing

The landing is a simple wooden balcony, with a staircase down to the open living area. There is a small table here, and a rug lies over the otherwise bare floorboards. North of you is your bedroom, down the stairs is the livingroom, Nikolai’s room is to the east.

> d

The stairs are broad and firm, despite being worn with age. You go down quickly, into the main living area.

Livingroom

This room uses the floorspace of the entire lodge, there are large barrels mounted on overhead racks, and the rafters are padded with bales of hay for insulation. It is cosy and warm as the open fire is lit, with chairs arranged around the hearth. To the east is the front door to the lodge, above you is the landing, and the adjacent kitchen area is to the west. Nikolai is here.

> open door

The door is now open. Nikolai glances around one last time for anything he may have missed and says; “You’re ready to leave? I think I have everything we need. Let’s go.”.

> e

Maybe it is already too late, distant sounds of gunfire signal the arrival of the German forces. You hurry outside into the pale morning light, and Nikolai follows.

Clearing

The lodge is surrounded by an area of clear land, littered with scrap wood-cutting equipment. The grass is sparse over the soft dirt and muddy topsoil. The trees and long grass circle the edge of the clearing, with a dirt track leading off into the wood.

The ground begins to rumble as you clamber down the steps of the lodge’s porch, and an immense roaring noise reverberates around the clearing. Unsure of which way to look, you glance arround in terror for the source of the noise, noticing trees and bushes being smashed to the ground as if they were matchsticks to the northwest.

Out of the brush emerges a shuddering great armoured tank, tearing up the ground under its iron tracks and expelling all manner of smoke and exhaust fumes. It bears the Wehrmacht symbol of the German army. It is a Panzer IV tank.

Just seconds after the German war-machine arrives, a Russian T34 tank tramples over a hedgerow to the south with another roar of engine power. The opposing tank crews immediately sight each other, and the Russians slam shut the hatches of their tank as they scramble inside to bring the turret to bear.

Although the Russian tank is superior, its crew is inexperienced in comparison to their German counterparts. You are between the two tanks, who are preparing to fight.

The door of the lodge to the west. Nearby, there is a pile of logs to the east.

“Sveta, RUN!”

Nikolai is here.

> run

Without any spare time to react, you dive behind the pile of logs. The inexperienced and panicing Russian tank crew fire their main cannon in desperation, without aiming properly. The shell flies past overhead, completely off target, and hits the side of the lodge instead. The resulting explosion destroys most of the wall, and you are showered with dirt and debris. Much of the roof collapses inwards on top of Nikolai as he reaches out and shouts; “SVETA!”

The German tank returns fire, but their aim is true. They strike a critical hit on the fuel drums on the rear of the T34, and it combusts into a flaming wreck. Fleeing for his life, a Russian scrambles out of the hatch, his clothes burning in the inferno. As he runs, he is cut down with a burst of fire from the MG34 machinegun on the front of the Panzer.

After a few moments of the aftermath, the German crew assume they are victorious and the Panzer leaves, continuing to its previous destination.

Log pile

You are lying behind the pile of logs, covered in dirt and debris. The only way you can go is west, back into what was the clearing; which is now rubble from the lodge.

> w

Brushing dirt from your clothes, you come out from behind the logs. The lodge has been completely destroyed. Nikolai is trapped somewhere beneath the rubble.

Whether or not you save him is down to you.

Clearing

The clearing is now littered with broken timber and burning debris. The destroyed T34 is to the south, to the southwest is the garage.

To the north is the outhouse, and to the east is the dirt track that leads away from the lodge into the wood.

You are unable to go west (back to the lodge) from here, because it is blocked with rubble. There is a bucket here.

> take bucket

Taken.

> n

You follow the familiar trail to the outhouse, the path curves northwards around the side of the lodge.

The outhouse

The tiny outhouse is built purely for functionality. It is a small wooden shack, and sits beneath a particularly large tree.

South of here returns to the clearing.

Despite the commotion that occured, you are surprised to hear a bird singing somewhere in the tree.

> examine tree

You look up at the tree, it is quite old and large. Sitting amongst some of the smaller branches is a bird nest.

> examine nest

The nest appears to be built from an assortment of litter, twigs, and other miscellaneous things.

There is a small and metallic object in the nest that glints in the early morning light, catching your eye.

The nest is too far out of reach.

> examine thing

It appears to be a small, slightly rusted key. It’s attached to a fob, like that of a car-key.

> use bucket

You fill the bucket with water.

> s

You head back down the trail into the clearing around the lodge.

Clearing

The clearing is now littered with broken timber and burning debris. The destroyed T34 is to the south, to the southwest is the garage.

To the north is the outhouse, and to the east is the dirt track that leads away from the lodge into the wood.

You are unable to go west (back to the lodge) from here, because it is blocked with rubble.

> s

You carefully move towards the destroyed Russian tank, it is unnerving to see such a large and powerful beast of war broken like a toy.

T34 wreckage

There are large pieces of debris scattered around the main hull of the tank, which smoulders with a column of thick black smoke.

West of here is the garage. To the north is the clearing. There is a wounded Russian tank crewman here.

> talk to russian

The Russian is whimpering, nothing that he says is coherent. You try to make out what he is saying, but the life fades from his body right infront of you.

Maybe you should look around a bit more.

> look

T34 wreckage

There are large pieces of debris scattered around the main hull of the tank, which smoulders with a column of thick black smoke.

West of here is the garage. To the north is the clearing. A backpack belonging to the dead Russian crewman has been dropped here. There is a corpse of a Russian tank crewman here.

> open bag

The backpack is now open. It contains some papers and a Mosin-Nagant.

> take all

(Mosin-Nagant) Taken.

(papers) Taken.

> use bucket

You throw the water in the bucket over the flames, extinguishing them!

> examine tank

The tank is still smoking considerably, but you are able to take a closer look. The hatch on top of the tank is open slightly.

> w

Heading west, the garage stands gloomily before you.

Garage

The garage sits snugly between a clump of trees, and is surrounded by overgrown plants. It has lopsided walls, which have buckled under their own weight, and the wooden doors have long since rotted away completely. As such, it’s very draughty inside because most of the roof is missing too. It is full of useless and rusted wood-cutting equipment. Between the garage and the lodge is your father’s delapidated towtruck. To the north, there’s wall of the lodge that is still standing.

To the northeast, you can return to the clearing. Due east of here is the wreckage of the T34. There is a crowbar here.

> take crowbar

Taken.

> e

You carefully move towards the destroyed Russian tank. Since you are downwind, acrid smell of the burned fuel and scorched plantlife burns your nose, and the smoke stings your eyes.

T34 wreckage

There are large pieces of debris scattered around the main hull of the tank, which smoulders with a column of thick black smoke.

West of here is the garage. To the north is the clearing. A backpack belonging to the dead Russian crewman has been dropped here. There is a corpse of a Russian tank crewman here.

> use crowbar

You wedge the crowbar into slightly open hatch, and heave with all your strength. With a creaking groan, the hatch opens fully. The crowbar has become bent, so you discard it.

> examine hatch

You peer inside the open hatch. The body of the tank’s gunner is inside the turret.

> search body

You found a clip of rifle ammunition, and the gunner’s dogtags, which you pick up.

> put ammo in gun

Done. You load the ammunition into the Mosin-Nagant, and cock the bolt. It’s ready to fire!

> n

Gladly leaving the wreckage behind you, you return to the clearing.

Clearing

The clearing is now littered with broken timber and burning debris. The destroyed T34 is to the south, to the southwest is the garage.

To the north is the outhouse, and to the east is the dirt track that leads away from the lodge into the wood.

You are unable to go west (back to the lodge) from here, because it is blocked with rubble.

> n

You follow the familiar trail to the outhouse, the path curves northwards around the side of the lodge.

The outhouse

The tiny outhouse is built purely for functionality. It is a small wooden shack, and sits beneath a particularly large tree.

South of here returns to the clearing.

Despite the commotion that occured, you are surprised to hear a bird singing somewhere in the tree. There is a small key here.

> shoot nest with gun

You hold your breath, raising the heavy rifle to your shoulder. Carefully taking aim as your father taught you as a child, you pull the trigger. With a fierce bang, the recoil of the rifle almost knocks you over. There is a puff of feathers and broken twigs, the dead bird and its’ nest fall to the ground. You carefully lift and slide the bolt, loading the next bullet into the chamber of the rifle. The spent brass cartridge lands with a soft thud by your feet, smoking slightly.

> take key

You pick up the small key.

> s

You head back down the trail into the clearing around the lodge.

Clearing

The clearing is now littered with broken timber and burning debris. The destroyed T34 is to the south, to the southwest is the garage.

To the north is the outhouse, and to the east is the dirt track that leads away from the lodge into the wood.

You are unable to go west (back to the lodge) from here, because it is blocked with rubble.

> sw

Cutting across the clearing, you head around the south side of the lodge, climbing over a broken fence and stumbling over the uneven ground. As you turn the corner, the garage stands gloomily before you.

Garage

The garage sits snugly between a clump of trees, and is surrounded by overgrown plants. It has lopsided walls, which have buckled under their own weight, and the wooden doors have long since rotted away completely. As such, it’s very draughty inside because most of the roof is missing too. It is full of useless and rusted wood-cutting equipment. Between the garage and the lodge is your father’s delapidated towtruck. To the north, there’s wall of the lodge that is still standing.

To the northeast, you can return to the clearing. Due east of here is the wreckage of the T34.

> use key

The key clicks into the ignition of the truck, and after a few tries of the starter-motor, the engine coughs into life.

> examine winch

The winch cable has a large hook on it, perfect for moving large obstacles out of the way. I wonder if you could attach the hook to something closeby?

> examine wall

This wall of the lodge is still standing, if only you could get past it! Nikolai is trapped on the other side.

You notice a thick iron pipe protruding from the wall.

> examine pipe

It’s a thick iron pipe sticking out of the wall, bent back on itself. You could probably hook something on to it.

> connect hook to pipe

You connect the hook to the pipe on the wall.

Although the gearbox is disconnected from the engine by the broken clutch-plate, the winch is powered by a separate system of cams.

You increase the throttle of the engine, and pull at a lever to engage the winch. The cable pulls tight and the pipe groans and flexes under the strain. The rear of the struck slides in the mud slightly, but the torque is strong enough against the already smashed lodge wall, the pipe and rubble collapse with an almighty crash and cloud of dust.

Freed from the rubble, Nikolai is lying unconscious amongst the destroyed remains of the lodge – miraculously, he only has minor injuries, and you are able to wake him.

> talk to nikoklai

I don’t know the word ‘nikoklai’.

> talk to niko

“Sveta? My sweet child, you saved my life! You are so brave and valiant. I couldn’t be a prouder father. Now come, let us get out of here before more Germans arrive!”

Nikolai struggles to his feet, and limps away to the northeast, motioning for you to follow him.

> ne

You turn around and climb back over the fence, heading back around the lodge to the clearing.

Clearing

The clearing is now littered with broken timber and burning debris. The destroyed T34 is to the south, to the southwest is the garage.

To the north is the outhouse, and to the east is the dirt track that leads away from the lodge into the wood.

You are unable to go west (back to the lodge) from here, because it is blocked with rubble. Nikolai is here.

> talk to niko

“I’m so sorry, Sveta. I need to rest for a moment, I think my leg may be seriously hurt. Will you go on ahead and check that the dirt track is clear?” He sits down and tears off some of his overalls, attempting to make a crude bandage for his leg.

> e

You cautiously advance along the dirt track to the east, it weaves between the trees and before long you can no longer see the burning remains of the lodge behind you.

Dirt track

This section of dirt track is rutted with tyre markings, and clumps of grass grow in the middle. It is windy and narrow, running west to east, and is lined with thick bushes and trees.

The path continues through the wood to the east; going west will return you to the lodge’s clearing. Eastward continues along the path. There is a German rifleman patrolling here!

> e

You attempt to leave, but in doing so, you catch the attention of the German soldier.

“Hallo? Ist jemand dort?”

Dirt track

You have alerted the German soldier! He comes closer, aiming his weapon at you; “Heben sie ihre hände an. Ihre papiere, bitte?”

He motions for you to give him something.

> give paper to german

You give the papers to the soldier. He cannot understand why you have given him ID that isn’t yours, and becomes distracted by trying to read the papers.

> shoot german with rifle

With lighting fast reflexes, you shoulder the rifle and pull the trigger without so much as blinking. The bullet strikes the unexpecting German soldier in the side of the jaw, and he is killed instantly. His body sprawls on the ground, oozing with blood.

> e

You continue along the path, the footing is loose with broken rocks and stones.

Road

The path opens out, joining on to a primitive road as a ‘T’ junction. Nikolai comes from the west, “Sveta, I heard gunshots! Are you okay?”

He gives you a loving hug. There are other Russian civilians here, loading large trucks and preparing to evacuate too – they can take you both with them to where it is safe.

Congratulations! You completed the game, and managed to save your father. Well done!

Walkthrough:

Bedroom:

You start in the bedroom. Searching through your belongings yields a photograph, a bonus item. Go south.

Landing:

There is nothing in the room to the east. Go downstairs.

Livingroom:

There is nothing in the kitchen to the west. Nothing significant happens until you open the door.

Go east through the open door.

Clearing (1):

This is where the plot twist takes place.

Doing anything except going east will get you killed. You can also “run” or “hide” to achieve the same thing.

Logs:

You can’t do anything here except go back to the west.

Clearing (2):

Take the bucket. Go north.

Outhouse:

Use the bucket to collect some water, go back south.

Clearing (2):

Continue south.

Tank wreck:

Talk to the Russian and he will die, dropping his backpack. Open the backpack and take the rifle and papers.

Use the bucket of water to put out the fire. Go west.

Garage:

Take the crowbar. Go east.

Tank wreck:

Use the crowbar to open the hatch. Search the dead body inside the hatch and take the ammo and dogtags (bonus item). Put the ammo in the rifle. Go north.

Clearing (2):

Continue north.

Outhouse:

Looking around identifies a bird nest, and in that there is a key. Use the rifle to shoot the bird or the nest to knock it down from the tree. You can then collect the key. Go south.

Clearing (2):

Go southwest.

Garage:

Use the key; it starts the engine of the truck. Now that the engine is running, the winch will work. Examine the winch to find the hook. You can connect it to something, a wall was mentioned earlier. If you examine the wall, you find a pipe.

Connect the hook to the pipe.

You have rescued Nikolai. Talk to him and he will go northeast. Follow him.

Clearing (2):

Talk to Nikolai, he will instruct you to go east whilst he rests. Go east.

Path:

Alert the guard by moving. Be careful, a wrong move here will get you killed. Give him the papers. When he has the papers, you will be able to kill him with the rifle. Search his body to take his dogtags (bonus item). Continue east.

Road:

If you saved Nikolai, he will arrive here and you will get the good ending to the game.

If you failed to save Nikolai (shot the German without using the truck), you get the bad ending.

Possible improvements:

Score system, save and restore,  bonus items contributing to ending.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s